Cook County Assessor battle: Kaegi 2, Berrios 0


Fritz Kaegi

With his re-election scheduled for this year, Joseph Berrios is fighting to keep Frederick “Fritz” Kaegi from potentially unseating him as Cook County Assessor, a position he has held since December 2010.  However, Berrios lost 2 rounds in the last two days. 

Yesterday, Berrios' campaign was slapped with a defamation lawsuit by Kaegi's campaign and today his challenge to keep Kaegi off the ballot failed.  


Joseph Berrios

Yesterday's lawsuit came several weeks after the Kaegi campaign send a cease and desist letter to the Berrios campaign for a commercial claiming that “Kaegi personally managed a fund that invested nearly $30 million in private prisons. Prisons where women refused food to protest abusive guards, immigrant children as young as 5 were held and detainees died suspiciously. But Kaegi only saw profits.” 

The story behind this statement is that though Kaegi worked for Columbia Wanger (CW), the private prison company CoreCivic was listed on CW's March mutual fund list. 

Though the Berrios camp claims all their facts are accurate, Kaegi says that he stepped down on Mar. 13, which was before CoreCivic became an asset of CW. He gives SEC filings as proof. They are:

Ballot challenge
Berrios challenged Kaegi's ballot petition signatures. Today the challenge failed. 

“As we expected, a hearing officer recommended that the Berrios campaign’s challenge to our ballot petition signatures be overruled, and the Berrios campaign, as a result, ended its efforts," says Kaegi. 

“These developments inject our campaign with additional momentum as we seek to clean up the Cook County Assessor’s office and provide a fairer, less regressive property tax assessment for all. 

“Now we can focus on providing working families with a property tax assessment system that is not rooted in corruption, nepotism and pay-to-play politics.  For far too long, taxpayers in the county have had their needs become secondary to Berrios’ lining of his pockets and those of his political allies.” 

More background
In December 2016, Berrios lost a three-year lawsuit battle claiming his office was not subject to oversight by the Cook County Inspector General (IG) as reported in Project Six

The end of last year a series of investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois exposed problems in how the property tax system works under Berrios. 

Among the facts in the investigation as pointed out by Paris Schutz, WTTW's Chicago Tonight, "Berrios has also been fighting Freedom of Information requests to get at aspects of the method the office uses to calculate property assessments, since so many of them are vastly different than the value a property has when it is sold. And another aspect of that investigation is the fact that property owners, many big downtown office buildings, who retain law firms run by powerful Illinois politicians House Speaker Michael Madigan and Ald. Ed Burke often win big reductions in their property taxes when they challenge those numbers."




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